Naitanui aims to give Eagles ruck edge

He won’t be jumping over rival players any time soon, but West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui will be hoping to make at least a small impact during this year’s AFL finals series.

Naitanui is set to spend up to a year on the sidelines after undergoing surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late last month.

The injury has robbed West Coast of its best player for the upcoming finals series, which kicks off with Thursday night’s elimination final against the Western Bulldogs at Domain Stadium.

Journeyman Jonathan Giles and Scott Lycett will be forced to carry the ruck load in Naitanui’s absence.

But Eagles coach Adam Simpson says Naitanui will do his best behind the scenes to ensure West Coast go deep into the finals.

Naitanui returned to the club last week following his successful operation, and he was around the players again on Monday.

“Just to see him around the club has been great for the players’ morale,” Simpson said.

“I think he’ll provide input, in particular the ruck situation that’s confronting our players.

“I’m sure he’ll help with our ruck duties with (ruck coach) Dean Cox this week.”

Simpson is optimistic Naitanui will be able to return at the tail end of next season, rather than miss the entire 2017 campaign.

Eagles captain Shannon Hurn said he and his teammates were feeling for Naitanui.

“It’s a little bit of bad luck,” Hurn said.

“Last year we had Mitch Brown and Eric Mackenzie (suffer knee injuries) as well

“It’s disappointing. But there’s plenty of blokes who miss out.

“And Nic’s been touching on it a fair bit – worse things happen in life. We’ve got to move on and play that extra one or two per cent better.”

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